Clarion County, encompassing part of the Allegheny Plateau, is characterized by low hills crisscrossed by streams. The area was included in the Treaty with the Six Nations of 1784 signed at Fort Stanwix (Rome, New York) and Fort McIntosh (Beaver). Much of the land was purchased at that time by wealthy Philadelphians and the Holland Land Company, but the land titles were in question for many years due to squatters who began to farm the land. Groups of settlers came from Westmoreland and Centre counties, as well as central and southern New York. Clarion County was formed in 1839 from parts of Venango and Armstrong counties. It takes its name from the river, which two surveyors noted for its “clarion call,” the rippling sound echoing off the high, tree-covered banks. The river bisects the county from northeast to southwest and joins the Allegheny River at the western border.
The earliest settlers engaged in farming. From the 1830s to the early 1880s, iron ore deposits and plentiful forests supported over thirty stone iron furnaces. Technology changes caused their demise, but oil was discovered in the county c. 1870, and by 1880, there were approximately five hundred producing oil wells. Logging, natural gas production, and bituminous coal strip mining provided employment off the farms. In the mid-twentieth century, oil and gas production remained the major industries.
Since its founding, the population of Clarion County has nearly tripled. Clarion University of Pennsylvania ( CL9) is now the largest employer and the locus of cultural activities in the county. The completion of I-80 in the late 1960s made access to the county easier, facilitating the annual arrival of about 250,000 visitors for outdoor activities and festivals. Farming remains an important part of the economy, with nearly five hundred farms in operation. Modular home manufacturing is a growing industry because the county's six entrances to I-80 allow access to major highways for shipping. Owens-Brockway, a glass container company, and Clarion Hospital are also major employers.
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